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Why Trophies Are Unimportant

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  • Trophies, the achievement system for PlayStation, allows gamers to track and log their accomplishments within a given game. For example, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 contains trophies for killing 1000 enemies with each weapon and for completing each chapter of the game as well as completing the game on each difficulty. Many games contain a handful of 'hidden' trophies in which the requirements are not revealed until the gamer achieves it.

    Over time, more and more gamers play a game to collect as many if not all of the trophies offered. This however doesn't evidence anything about the game or gamer other than dedication to the game or at the very least determination of the gamer. Killing 1000 enemies with a particular weapon when the weapon is not better or worse than any other weapon isn't an achievement - it's a time consuming activity, thus an unimportant factor of the game in context to the point of the game. This is more true when the point of the game is to play through the story and learn the plot based objectives such as 'make your way to the Hyabusa Village.' One might argue that in games such as Battlefield 1943 in which trophies and badges such as "Capture 5 Flags" or "Capture 25 Flags" lends proof to a players profiency to such tasks adds to overall game-play, especially since they highlight objectives of the game. It could also be added that trophies give indication to the style of playing gamers have; players of Uncharted who obtained a trophy for Brutal Brawler and 50 kills with the 9mm (over a lower kill ratio with other weapons in other styles) may be considered as a player who likes to get into the thick of things vs. a player who has trophies with the Dragon Sniper Rifle and a heap of head shots. Still, the trophies add no value to the game, only the perceived value of the player within a certain game and while perception is context, there's a lot to be said about actual performance in game as opposed to a pretty icon and what it makes other players think. If we then take similar trophies across a spectrum of games, players may establish themselves among a consistent group of gamers as a certain type of gamer among a certain genre - but again, there is no value added to the game through the trophies and there remains proof to be in the pudding as it were.

    Now, if we also look at the platinum level trophies we see that those singular trophies are acquired by obtaining 'all other trophies'. As mentioned earlier, some trophies are awarded for going through the plot of the game. This means that the player is earning a trophy and gaining ground on acquisition of the highest award for a task they've set out to do by purchasing the game. Akin to giving someone an 'atta boy' for successfully breathing, the trophies become a reward for doing what the player is supposed to do.. All trophies lose value in context to themselves at this point.

    As it is, trophies have this 'unspoken' secondary purpose of adding replay value to a game. When you beat it, you can go back and work towards trophies, but the replay value of a game shouldnt' be dependent upon trophies. It should be dependent upon how well the game itself was executed.

    Perhaps value of the trophies in context of game value can be increased or at least expanded upon if developers were to develop more games with multiple endings. Player would earn trophies based on the endings they received. How nice would it have been to get a trophy for getting the 'good' ending within Silent Hill, but also have trophies for the "Alien" ending - or trophies for saving the brother in Advent Rising (I know... that was an XBOX game, but work with me here), and then get a trophy for saving the girlfriend during the second play through. In this case, the trophy would add value to the game because it would better promote replay value.

    In the end - poorly-designed achievements incentivize poor play, and a lack of teamwork and sportsmanship. If you need contrived goals to keep the hamsters on the wheel, you'd serve your customers better by building a better wheel.

    Just a thought, here... Just a thought.

    CAUTION: Shawn's blog increases the risk of intelligence.

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